Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Early April Buzztails

Periods of warm weather are a staple of every spring. There are periods of weather in the 60s or low 70s and then the transition back to cool weather in the 40s and 50s. But the first week of April in Michigan has been anything but ordinary. Temperatures have sored into the high 70s and even hit 80 in some places. This presents a unique opportunity to get out and enjoy the weather and hopefully encounter a denizen of Michigan's peatlands. Friday morning I arose early and headed out to one of my places for a hike, I had the trails to myself and the sunlight was hitting the ground at a warm 65 degrees by 9:30AM.

A few garter snakes darted off the trailside where they had been basking as I passed by. The birds were singing, and the distant sound of woodpeckers knocking on the dead tamracks could be heard. Eventually, a dark shape materialized trailside in an open sunny patch of sun.

A beautiful sub-adult out in a coiled position for an early morning bask. It was more than willing to sit still for a few pictures.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake - Sistrurus catenatus

Seeing one rattlesnake in a morning is a nice treat, but seeing two is lucky. A few hundred feet up the path from the first snake was an even larger individual basking on some fallen down sedge grass.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake - Sisturus catenatus

The following morning, I headed out around 10AM because the colors were a little cooler and the skies were sunny with haze. I also noticed some garter snakes out moving about in the morning sun. After seeing a few buzztails the morning before, I was hoping I'd be lucky enough so see another individual out along the trails. I got my answer just after 10:30 AM as I noticed this layed out a few feet off the trail near a largr stand of tamaracks.

This snake was a large gravid female, estimated to be in the 23-24" range. She noticed me and coiled quite quickly to stand her ground. You can notice from these photos how swollen she was with embryos growing inside of her.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake - Sistrurus catenatus

As I was photographing the gravid female, I heard a small buzz coming from behind me. Imagine my susprise when I turned around to see a yearling massasauga coiled just a few feet away. One of the few times I've seen two massasaugas near each other. All together, that made it a four rattlesnake weekend and brings my observations to five on the year. Should be a good field season!

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake - Sistrurus catenatus

No comments:

Post a Comment